For the second straight year, Kern County’s homicide rate led the state.
According to a report released by the California Department of Justice, there were 11.1 homicides in Kern County per 100,000 residents in 2018, far outpacing the next highest county, Humboldt, with a rate of 8.1 per 100,000.
“We knew that 2018 was bad, we didn’t need the attorney general to tell us that,” said Joseph Kinzel, spokesman for the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. “(Cynthia Zimmer) campaigned on trying to do everything we can, particularly on the homicide issue.”
In 2017, the county’s homicide rate was 9.9, closer to the other highest counties, but still in the top spot.
Other counties with high homicide rates in 2018 were Humboldt, Madera and Shasta.
But whereas the state as a whole saw a decrease of 4.3 percent in homicides from 2017 to 2018, Kern County saw an increase.
The DA’s Office hopes to curb the disconcerting trend.
In a move meant to speed up the judicial process for homicide cases, Kinzel said the DA’s Office had recently reorganized to include a unit that solely prosecutes homicides.
So far this year, 14 homicide jury trials have ended in convictions, compared with six that were finished in the entirety of 2018.
“That’s really been our focus is attacking this homicide rate,” Kinzel said. “It looks like there’s certainly going to be improvements.”
The number of homicides has been generally increasing in Kern County over the past 10 years.
In 2018, the county logged 101 homicides, compared with 89 the year before.
A population increase in Kern County can partially account for the increase, but throughout the state, where the population has also increased since 2009, homicides have fallen.
The District Attorney’s Office has been parsing the data for each homicide in an attempt to bring the rates down.
Other types of dangerous crimes also have increased in Kern County.
About 300 more violent crimes were reported throughout the county in 2018 compared to 2019, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
The number of reported rapes — a subset of violent crime — has increased to 382 in 2018 from a low of 164 in 2010, and robberies too have increased slightly.
Statewide, violent crimes have steadily declined since 1993, according to the attorney general.